The Feeder and Cattle Rub Management
Our, and other graziers', experiences with this tool have involved cattle. There may be some adaptations of the tool for use on goats, horses, sheep, and other relatively large native wildlife and exotic grazing animals. The rub portion of the tool can be adapted to use in some swine enterprises. It may be used in some dairy cattle enterprises.
Salt, Mineral, and Ionophore Feeder
The feeder portion of the tool can be used to feed salt, mineral, ionophore feeds and possibly other feeds. Those supplements, in turn, bait or attract the cattle to the tool and they learn to use the cattle rub while feeding on the supplements (Figure 12).
Recommendations for specific salt, mineral and other feedstuffs can be procured from a qualified animal nutritionist. The salt and mineral combination, however, should be specific for the livestock enterprise, and the expected nutrient deficiency in the forage or feed supply. We have used hard block, pelleted, and soft, small, granulated salt and mineral mixtures. All of those forms were used successfully. We prefer the pelleted or small-loose granulated mixtures due to the palatability and ease of adjusting palatability, ease and rapidness of cattle consumption of the supplement, ease of altering the mix, changes in season and nutrient requirements, ease of feeding the product, usually lower cost per ton, and the observation that more head of cattle can feed at a feeder on a given amount of loose supplement compared to the same amount of feeder space with hard block supplements due to less time needed to intake salt/mineral feeds. Loose minerals fed in feeders without a roof should be formulated with additives to keep the mineral soft and crumbly (after it gets wet by precipitation) and not become hard upon drying (Figure 13).
A salt and mineral supplement must be adequately palatable in order to serve as an attractant to the cattle. Some grazers prefer to provide salt and mineral as separate items. We prefer to provide these nutrients as a mixture for control of the product content and the cattle consumption of it. If salt and mineral are fed separate, the feeder can be divided into compartments (Figure 14). In our experience, palatability has been excellent with the salt and mineral combination we used that contained 20 percent to 30 percent loose salt. Having an adequate amount of salt provides palatability and having just enough limits over-consumption. The exact amount needed in the mixture is a trial and error issue. Palatability is a very important factor. Once the proper ratio of salt to mineral is determined it usually stays near the same for a given herd. The acceptance of the mixture is very dynamic and involves much more than salt. However, the salt content of the salt and mineral mix is easy for the manager to control on the grazing unit. The salt portion needed may also vary with the seasonal forage changes.
The salt and mineral supplement can also contain an appropriate ionophore as applicable to the cattle enterprise management and production targets. We have employed this technique with the tool as a part of the livestock and forage management scheme with stocker cattle.
Systemic insecticides and dewormers can also be provided as part of the salt and mineral supplements. We have not done that because of higher costs and the long-term impact of those products on the non-target (non-cattle) parts of the paddock environment. Some products have a negative impact on earthworms and dung beetles and possibly other organisms. We prefer to treat the cattle individually with the tool, and use products that are effective and relatively environmentally friendly.
Many of the tools depicted do not have a roof over the salt and mineral feeder. In our case, and in the climate of the southern Oklahoma region, this has been satisfactory. Supplemental feeding is done as needed and only the amount needed for a few days is provided. Cattle are typically monitored daily or frequently and as that supply dwindles, more salt and mineral is added.
Roofs over the feeder are advisable in more humid and high rainfall regions and also where the manager will supply large amounts of supplement to last long periods of time (Figure 11). The roof should help prevent the wastage of mineral in high rainfall areas.